November 13, 2013


 From the air Barcelona looks like a series of gift boxes, appropriate for a city that makes you feel like every day is your birthday. Fanciful sights await you if you just open the boxes. The top of every building is crowned with ornaments. And there is plenty of room to play: to walk or relax, to eat good food, to enjoy the beach.

Barcelona Fancy by Gary

Fountains by Michele
If American cities had the kind of vision the leaders of this city had in the early 1900’s, our cities would be more livable. They would have space for people, not just space for buildings and cars.

They would be compact and yet not feel dense. They would combine art at every turn (even for
Green Houses by Michele
communication towers) and they would not fear innovation.

Our hotel is in the Las Ramblas district, an area that bustles day and night. One-half block away is a dragon designed by Joan Miró for an umbrella shop.

The Umbrella  Shop by Michele

We also are not far from the Erotic Museum. I am uncertain about what is inside, but whenever “Marilyn Monroe” comes out on the balcony and lifts her white skirt, the school boys on the promenade punch one another on the shoulder and drool.

We have been in the city for eight days and traveled from one end to the other. Our favorite tourist sites were:

The extraordinary Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

This museum is filled with Medieval and Renaissance Art from the Catalan area of Spain. The interior of the building, constructed for a world exposition in 1929, has been re-designed to hold exhibits of church niches and apses in their original form.

Catalan Museum by Gary

Casa Batlló (designed by Gaudì)

I wonder how Gaudí persuaded anyone to build a house like this one and yet his work prevails throughout the city. Stop to realize that this was built at the turn of the last century.

Casa Batlló at Dusk by Michele

These are chimneys from another of Gaudí’s houses.

Rooftop by Gary

The incomparable Sagrada Familia

This work of Gaudì’s is ongoing, 87 years after his death. Even before it has been finished, UNESCO has declared it a World Heritage Site.

The artist believed that his church should be filled with light and should resemble nature.
The interior is designed, and the ceiling supported, in the same pattern as trees.

Sagrada Familia Interior by Michele
Sagrada Familia Ceiling by Gary

When completed, the church (now a basilica) will have three facades. This is the stark façade that depicts the passion of Christ (Compare the soldiers to the Gaudí chimneys)

Veronica's Veil by Michele

Palau de la Musica Catalana

This fanciful building was a project begun by the Orfeó Català, a choral society founded in 1891.

Palau Facade by Gary

I was struck by how much the Music Palace emphasizes women. It claims to have established the first women’s choir. The stage is surrounded by muses: women dressed in the clothing of different countries and playing instruments from around the world. (Two of the muses cannot be seen from the audience and are visible only to the performers.) The center of the ceiling in the main concert hall is a profusion of colored light surrounded by the faces of women singers.

Palau ceiling by Gary
The Palace offers more than 300 concerts a year and more than half a million people a year attend the musical performances. The Music Palace’s mission is to promote Catalan music as well as international music. It also presents classical music and more popular forms, such as jazz and modern music. The only musical form it does not produce is opera, because the stage’s ornate decoration does not permit the inclusion of stage sets.

Layers of Modernism by Michele

Last Note from Europe:

We will soon be making plans to return home, grateful for our many experiences and the privilege of being able to spend three months abroad, but also grateful to be back in time zones more compatible with those we love. There will be more blogs about our European trip, but no more from Europe this year.

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